Eight Taiwan Lantern Festivals (that aren’t the one you think)

In Chinese, Yuánxiāo jié means Lantern Festival, and while most visitors associate the term with the town of Pingxi (which has turned the annual event into a year-long cottage industry), in fact the festival is a specific happening meant to denote the end of the annual Lunar New Year’s festival.

To use a baseball analogy, if the first six days of Chinese New Year  are the playoffs, then the Lantern Festival is kind of like the World Series. Only way more colorful. ( Read more: Why you need to put the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival on your bucket list in 2018)

Since you already know about the Pingxi Lanern Festival, this will be the last mention of it in this article, specifically to let you know that despite it’s popularity, the Pingxi Lantern Festival is by no means Taiwan’s definitive lantern festival.

That honor goes to the first item on our list:

1. The Taiwan Lantern Festival

This is the big Kahuna of Taiwan’s lantern festivals, with everyone from cities and counties to banks, religious groups and private companies vying to outdo each other with the most colorful and creative floats. So important is the nation’s main lantern festival that it moves around the island from year to year (kind of like the world’s fair).  2018’s festival will be held from March 3-11 at the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum in Chiayi.

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2. Taipei Lantern Festival

Regardless of what the rest of the country is doing, it isn’t a Taiwanese holiday unless Taipei gets into the act, and this year the Beimen (North Gate) area is putting on the dog to celebrate the Year of the Dog with a parade, ceremony and all the colorful pageantry you’d expect to find in Taiwan’s capital city.

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3. Kaohsiung Lantern Festival

Not to be outdone, Taiwan’s southernmost city also throws a number of lantern festivals annually, including the major city festival lighting up both banks of the Love River between the Kaohsiung and Cisian bridges. The highlight of this festival happens on the 15th day of the lunar calendar (March 2nd in 2018) with a laser light show. For the more religiously inclined, the “Three Shans Blessing Lantern Festivals” are held simultaneously at Fo Guang Shan, Cishan and Guanshan Buddhist temples.

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4. Taichung City Mazu International Festival

Mixing religion, opera, martial arts and religion, this eight day festival has been going on in Taiwan’s central city since 2004. Expect to see parades featuring gods carried on palanquins by devotees, fireworks, and of course tons of colorful lanterns.

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5. The Yuejin Lantern Festival

If the Mazu festival is more traditional, then the Yuejin festival in Tainan county mixes a bit more modern flair with old world charm. The 2018 Yuejin Lantern Festival will be hosted by the Cultural Bureau of Tainan City Government and curated and executed by Urban Art Studio. Expect to see tons of local artists exhibiting new works mixing classical forms with new media technology.

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6. The Yuanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival

Taiwan’s most notorious festival (it’s often listed as one of the world’s most dangerous religious celebrations), the Beehive Fireworks Festival, or Beehive Bottle-Rocket Festival, as its sometimes called, is kind of like Spain’s running of the bulls. Except instead of bulls, our festival has bottle rockets, millions of them, launched horizontally out of gigantic boxes called castles directly into throngs of festival participants. If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime Taiwan experience, this is it. 2018’s festival will be held from March 1-3.

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7. Master Han Dan Firework Festival

Though less known than the Tainan festival, Taitung’s Master Han Dan Firework Festival has been going strong for fifty years. The Taitung festival happens on the seventh day of the lunar year (March 4th in 2018) and includes lanterns, music, festivities, and of course dangerous amounts of ordinance.

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8. Luzhunan Haocaitou Art Festival

Finally, the Luzhunan Haocaitou art festival in Miaoli is a great choice for families visiting with children. In the old days when folks were poorer than they are today, many couldn’t afford proper lanterns (let alone fireworks) and learned to carve radishes, gourds and other items into lovely DIY (and fully compostable) facsimiles. The Luzhunan Haocaitou festival celebrates the thrift and handicraft of old Taiwan. 2018’s festival will be held on March second.

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Visiting Taiwan in March (or any other month, for that matter) and looking to explore our very unique festival scene? Read more to find out the 10 festivals that worth planning  your Taiwan holiday around or let MyTaiwanTour customizes a trip for you!